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Ep. 044: How Horses Can Heal the Trauma that Comes with Breast Cancer

ABOUT THE SHOW HOSTS

Dr. Tania Cubitt

DR. TANIA CUBITT

Hailing originally from Australia, Dr. Tania Cubitt is one of Standlee’s resident nutrition experts, with both technical and practical life experience. She has a PhD in Equine Nutrition and Reproduction from Virginia Tech and raises black angus cattle, along with a few goats in Virginia.

Katy Starr

KATY STARR

From the western state of Idaho, Katy Starr works as a marketing consultant for Standlee Premium Western Forage, focusing on nutritional content. She has a bachelor’s degree in animal science and agribusiness from the University of Idaho, and partners with her husband in raising a small commercial cattle herd and their three girls.

Episode Details

Co-host Katy Starr chats with Trish Broersma, Director and Founder of Riding Beyond, a therapeutic riding program for women recovering from breast cancer treatment, Ann-Marie Ramsey (participant and volunteer) of Riding Beyond, and Monica Steigerwald (VP of Development) with Living Beyond Breast Cancer.

Episode Notes

On this episode, co-host Katy Starr chats with the following guests:

 

• Trish Broersma, Director and Founder of Riding Beyond, a therapeutic riding program for women recovering from breast cancer treatment

• Ann-Marie Ramsey (participant and volunteer) of Riding Beyond  

• Monica Steigerwald (VP of Development) with Living Beyond Breast Cancer, the nonprofit we helped last year who has received a 4 star rating from Charity Navigator for 17 consecutive years

 

Learn more about Riding Beyond and Living Beyond Breast Cancer and how they serve those who are battling breast cancer, the moment that happened between Ann-Marie and Mystic, an Anglo-Arab mare, that will give you chills and a simple thing you can do to truly be there for the person in your life who is battling breast cancer.

 

You won’t want to miss this soul-soothing, special episode.

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** For EVERY download on this episode and every image shared with the #horsesheal, from release day through October 31, 2022, Standlee will donate $5 to Riding Beyond ** 

 

There are two simple ways to help - First, download this episode. Second, we want to nurture and build a community of support by sharing experiences with Living Beyond Breast Cancer, the 4 star rated non-profit we supported last year. Share a picture to your social media page of a horse that supported you or your family through this breast cancer journey with the #horsesheal.

 

Share, share, SHARE! Tell your friends, tell your family, tell your neighbors to download this episode on Apple, Spotify or Google Podcasts apps. Help us take part in making a DIFFERENCE!

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Connect with or donate to Riding Beyond:

Make a donation

 

Connect with or donate to Living Beyond Breast Cancer:

Receive support through the Breast Cancer Hotline

Make a donation

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~ 47:30 - Listen to "Ep 20 - Why Trucking, the PINK Hay Truck and Breast Cancer Awareness Matters"

 

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  • *Views and opinions expressed by guests are their own and do not necessarily reflect the view of Standlee Premium Products, LLC.*
Transcript

Katy Starr (00:00:01):

Hi, I'm Katy.

 

Dr. Tania Cubitt (00:00:02):

And I'm Dr. Cubitt. We're going beyond the barn. Come join us on this journey. As we bust equine and livestock nutrition, myths and interview, some of the most intriguing experts in the country.

 

Katy Starr (00:00:15):

We'll go behind the scenes of how premium Western quality forage is grown and brought to your favorite farm and ranch retail store. We're so glad you're here. 

 

Katy Starr (00:00:30):

In today's episode, you will have an incredible opportunity to be a part of something that will positively impact so many others just by simply downloading this episode and sharing an image to social media. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Think about your sister, your aunt, or your mother who has battled breast cancer, or maybe yourself. Maybe you've been the one on the other side of receiving a breast cancer diagnosis. Breast cancer.org shares that one in eight US women, which is about 13%, will develop invasive breast cancer over her lifetime. There are two simple ways for you to help. The first way is by downloading this episode. The second way to help is by sharing an image of you with your horse. With the #horsesheal on your social media. We want to nurture and build a community of support by sharing experiences with Living Beyond Breast Cancer, the four-star rated nonprofit we supported last year.

 

Katy Starr (00:01:36):

For more details, check out our show notes. For every download on this episode and every image shared with the #horsesheal from now through October 31st, 2022, Standlee will be donating $5 to Riding Beyond, a therapeutic riding program for women recovering from breast cancer treatment. If we get 300 downloads and images, we'll donate $1,500. If we get 700 downloads and images, we'll donate $3,500. And if we receive more downloads and images than that, we'll donate more money. So share this with your family, friends and colleagues. Share this on your social media pages and in your Facebook groups. Help us support anyone who may receive this devastating diagnosis in the future. We will be talking with three great guests on today's episode, who have been impacted by breast cancer and what they're now doing to make a difference in the healing of individuals fighting breast cancer and their families, in our rural communities and beyond.

 

Katy Starr (00:02:47):

Our next guest is a certified therapeutic riding instructor and certified equine specialist in mental health and learning through Path International over the past 30 years. She has established two premier accredited therapeutic riding centers. 10 years ago, she founded Riding Beyond a nonprofit in southern Oregon for women recovering from the many after effects of breast cancer treatment. Welcome Trish Broersma to the Beyond the Barn podcast. Thanks so much for being here, Trish.

 

Trish Broersma (00:03:21):

Thank you, Katy. I'm very happy to be here.

 

Katy Starr (00:03:25):

So, as I mentioned in your bio, you're obviously the founder of Riding Beyond and director of it. What was your draw to get involved, first of all in equine therapy, but even more so one focused on serving those who are healing from breast cancer and its treatments.

 

Trish Broersma (00:03:43):

Well, it started many years ago. I was teaching riding and training horses, but I really felt something was missing in, particular because I had done a number of years of work in community development, and I knew there were so many people in inner city communities who would benefit from being with horses, but the industry was not accessible to them financially. And when I heard about therapeutic riding, I knew also from my original pursuit of possibly being a doctor, you know, which I dropped as I went into graduate school. So all that really came together when I heard about therapeutic riding. That here was a way through nonprofit structure, you know, working with healing with horses, which I hadn't even thought about being possible at that point. And then, so I followed that route for quite a number of years, and at one point I was doing teaching internationally.

 

Trish Broersma (00:04:45):

I had, you know, I was following some of the work I'd done with at-risk teens, and I wanted to do something more here for our local community. I had stepped away from the therapeutic riding program here, and at a conference, it was one of those amazing coincidences at a conference, I was introduced to a program by a woman who had been in hospice actually, from her own experience with breast cancer treatment. And she discovered that being up on her one remaining horse that she'd kept in anticipation, you know, that she wasn't gonna survive. She became well within, you know, a year and she was offering this, had been offering it for several years. And so I just picked up on it. I came home because I had accompanied two very close friends through breast cancer treatment. I'd gone to treatment with them and I had seen what they'd gone through. And it never occurred to me that my horses at the therapeutic riding program could have been of help to them. But as I entered this work, it was extremely eye opening how my personal horses stepped into the work in really miraculous and amazing ways that I never would've anticipated. And it took me into an entirely deeper understanding of the sentient qualities and healing abilities of horses, which has been thrilling and wonderful to experience.

 

Katy Starr (00:06:15):

That is so amazing. I really, really love that. Can you tell us a little bit about the equines that you have in your program?

 

Trish Broersma (00:06:24):

Yes. Well, right now there are four in the program, and the first one who 10 years ago got us started is Mystic. She was actually my endurance horse. She's half Arab, she's a half thoroughbred, an Anglo-Arab, and she was known as the dominatrix of the barn. She was actually quite difficult in many ways, but she and I had worked out our relationship many years before by my working with her at liberty, giving her more choice where and where there was a burden on me to become more skillful in relating to her when she was free in a large area, larger than a round pen, which didn't allow that kind of choice. And so when I introduced her to this work, she right away with our first client, she came up and started nuzzling her in her solar plexus area. And I'd never seen her do anything like that before.

 

Trish Broersma (00:07:20):

And she just went on and on and you know, I finally put my hand on her chest and asked her to step back. And our client was just weeping really, because she said that that was where her tumor was. And she said that the reason she didn't step away from the horse, which I was just standing there amazed at why she hadn't, because I knew she was afraid of horses. And she said that she experienced this amazing energy just pouring into her from the horse, and she just wanted more of it. And so that was the beginning. We were all in tears as well. That was the beginning of our realizing we were onto something that was beyond anything we had understood before. And so in the meantime, so she, Mystic sort of got us started. And then Journey is another horse who, he's a Rocky Mountain horse.

 

Trish Broersma (00:08:07):

He's bigger, many Rockies are smaller, more like Mystic who's 14 three, but Journey's 15 one, oh no, he's actually 15 three, come to think of it. Yeah, he's 15 three, so he's bigger and he's a gelding and he just has a more powerful male presence. But he also is a kind of ADD kind of personality. He's always kind of looking around. He's kind of distractible and, but in recent years he's like 16 and Mystic is 22 now. He has just stepped into the work in the most amazing way. He's just clearly understanding what's going on. I could tell an amazing story of what he's done in the last, just in the last few months, but I don't think we really have quite time for it. But that's this kind of typical now our third of what happens, you know, that the horses step into this work, the third horse is a mustang and she's more of a kind of zen presence.

 

Trish Broersma (00:09:00):

She's extremely calm without being dissociated, and she just exudes that calm and power. And then our fourth equine is Jinny the donkey. And she's really in some ways more comical and comic relief and, but she's friendly. I mean, she was part of the herd out in the field and we weren't including her in the program, but she would come to the gate and stick her head through and, and just bray at us until we paid attention to her . And we said, Okay, okay, you can join the program

 

Katy Starr (00:09:38):

She's like, don't forget me .

 

Trish Broersma (00:09:40):

Yeah, yeah. She was, you know, those are the four right now. They all offer completely different personality traits and gifts to our interactions.

 

Katy Starr (00:09:49):

Oh, that's wonderful. Yes. And do the participants need to have any experience with horses to participate?

 

Trish Broersma (00:09:59):

No, not at all. We do adjust the program according to their experience. Like if we've had a number of people who have horses and have come to the program and are experienced riders, and we actually introduce them to liberty work, you know, we take them up a notch considerably from what others do. But the regular program does not require experience at all, really. So we've had, like I mentioned, the first person really was kind of afraid of horses, but she was game, you know, she wanted to try anything.

 

Katy Starr (00:10:29):

She wanted to do it. She was still a little intimidated. 

 

Trish Broersma (00:10:32):

Yeah, she was definitely intimidated. And you know, we've had people who are just outright afraid but wanted to get over the fear and, you know, it does not require experience at all.

 

Katy Starr (00:10:42):

Oh, that's awesome. So what are some of the different activities that individuals can do in the program? Obviously, whether they have experience with horses or not, that really serves to heal them. 

 

Trish Broersma (00:10:55):

Well, that's a great question because many of the women coming out of breast cancer treatment really wonder how in the world a horse could possibly help them. You know, because they often feel physically unable to ride, you know, or to do anything very physically challenging. And so anyway, the activities, I think primarily restore connection. Okay. The connection with other people, and through the horses, by connecting with the horses, which are often easier for them to connect with a horse that restores their connection with other people, it restores a connection with a natural world. And most important for them, it restores a connection with themselves because they've often lost their intuitive sense of how to attend to their own wellbeing because they've turned that over to the medical team, you see? And to regain that, and sometimes in some cases they've never had it very strongly, is foundational to them to be able to reengage with their loved ones in a meaningful way.

 

Trish Broersma (00:12:02):

And so it's that profound connection that horses offer because, you know, women coming out of treatment are often have pulled back from connecting with others, and they don't wanna be touched. They don't wanna touch other people. They have issues in terms of their own stamina. They often have an, you know, higher than normal heart rate. They have issues, really, they’re symptoms of PTSD, of mild PTSD is what they have. And, you know, stress, higher stress levels, they have, you know, a lot of, you know, anger, hostility, anxiety especially. And you know, their social functioning has just been challenged. And so these activities that we do, you know, has to do with, we actually, like we walk to music. When walking to music with a horse, the horse is also walking to the music. Then there's a sense of euphoria that ensues and they can, they experience their boundaries opening to the natural world.

 

Trish Broersma (00:13:05):

And just again, as I said, touching the horses. We do storytelling. We trace back ancient tales of horses. And like Chiron, who was, you know, half man, half horse, who was part of the healing traditions in the Greek world up to, you know, the Black Stallion movie, but their own stories as well. We elicit their own stories. And then we play brain mind games and exercises that have to do with modern brain research that help restore a sense of their own body's wisdom. And it's really based on a lot of heart research done by the Institute of HeartMath and others really that validates that there's a coherent heart rhythm that horses have that extends out some 60 feet. And with PTSD war veterans, they've done this research for about 15 years now, that shows just that, just within about 15 minutes of being in the presence of the horse and doing something quiet, the human heart rate entrains with the horse’s heart rate. And the horse's heart rate is associated with, it has characteristics of peace and calm and joy. And for many of these veterans, it's the first time they've experienced that in weeks or months or even years. And it's something that with repeated experiences is very long lasting. So those are some of the things that we do.

 

Katy Starr (00:14:26):

That's amazing. 

 

Trish Broersma (00:14:27):

It's quite inspiring, it's joyful, it's fun. It's really, we feel like we see miracles happening all the time.

 

Katy Starr (00:14:35):

That's really, really amazing. I love that so much. Trish, thank you so much for being here with us today. If our listeners want to connect with Riding Beyond, or even donate to your program after this episode, how can they do that?

 

Trish Broersma (00:14:53):

Well, we have a very robust website, ridingbeyond.org where they can see stories and research and details about our program in particular to sign up for our mailing list. And there's a way to donate there as well, a donate button. And you'll find out more by being on the mailing list where we send out things occasionally throughout the year. 

 

Katy Starr (00:15:18):

Awesome. Are you guys on social media as well?

 

Trish Broersma (00:15:22):

Yes, we are on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram. You can find us there as well.

 

Katy Starr (00:15:31):

Excellent. Well thank you so much, Trish. I can't tell you how much I appreciate the work that you do and how you're serving the breast cancer community with something that's so important to you. So thank you for being on today. We really appreciate it.

 

Trish Broersma (00:15:49):

Thank you.

 

Katy Starr (00:15:51):

Our next guest grew up in Atlanta and moved to Alaska in 1994, where she met her husband and worked for the state of Alaska seeking sun. her family eventually migrated to Southern Oregon where they have lived since 2013. It was here she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2018 and began her journey and later volunteer work with Riding Beyond. Welcome, Ann-Marie Ramsey. Thank you for joining us today.

 

Ann-Marie Ramsey (00:16:21):

Katy, thank you so much for having me and for bringing awareness to this really important topic.

 

Katy Starr (00:16:27):

Absolutely. We are so glad to have you and Trish on this episode with us to talk about your work with Riding Beyond and your experiences. So why don't you tell us just a little bit about your journey with breast cancer.

 

Ann-Marie Ramsey (00:16:43):

Sure. So just as you mentioned in 2018 in September, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. And it came to my surprise because I was feeling healthy, I was looking healthy. But I will tell you how it started was I was driving home and I kind of had an itch on my upper chest. And so I itched there, but then I felt kind of a, an interesting like lump there as well. And so I was like, well, you know, maybe it was something related to, you know, I was trying to do pushups at the time, muscle knot or something. And so I went to my doctor right away though just because I was like, it's probably nothing, but I'm just gonna have her check it anyway. And she felt it and she's like, maybe just a cyst, not anything big deal, but let's just get it checked out.

 

Ann-Marie Ramsey (00:17:40):

So then I ended up going in, of course for the checkup. And then from there I did a biopsy. And it was shortly after that, that I did in fact get the diagnosis for breast cancer, which completely shocked me. I will tell you. And then that's where the journey started. And so I went through the first couple weeks, of course, not knowing where I stood in terms of stage or severity, they have to go through a lot of testing with the lab to determine that. So you're kind of in limbo. So you can imagine the types of thoughts that go through one's head…

 

Katy Starr (00:18:23):

Oh yeah…

 

Ann-Marie Ramsey (00:18:23):

…during that time. And then I learned that I was stage one, but that I also had a very aggressive type of breast cancer. There are I think at least 14 different types of breast cancer. So depending on which one the person has, will determine the treatment route. And in my case, I ended up going through the entire enchilada, as I speak, with chemo, I did the surgery, I then did radiation, and I was on immunotherapy for a year at the completion of my treatment phase. And so that's a little bit about just the journey in general. And then upon ending that piece of it in the treatment phase is when I really started delving into the healing part of it.

 

Katy Starr (00:19:24):

And just kind of in general, what support methods were introduced to you to help that healing process? Kind of more from that mental side through this experience.

 

Ann-Marie Ramsey (00:19:37):

I would say in terms of support methods, so while I was on treatments, of course the person is going in, you know, I should say I was going in and for treatments all the time, it seemed like for lab, for checking, just to see where I was at, for making sure I was on target. And in a way that is kind of a support, even though I didn't think about it at the time, it's like, okay, it's like I've always had somebody monitoring me and being, and checking in and saying, okay, here's where you're at. You're on target, or we need to bring up this piece of it. Or your white blood cell count is super down. And so in a way it was nice having that constant measure of support in terms of going through it. I also had, I felt very blessed to have a community around me that had friends come and, you know, provide meals and support, go with me to my appointments on occasion or take notes for me in there. And I found that hugely helpful for helping me. And so I would say right up until that piece where I ended the treatments with those supports, you know, at some point people go then back to their lives and I end treatments, but then there comes a piece of like, okay, wow, I was used to all these supports and now I'm kind of let out into the field.

 

Katy Starr (00:21:10):

You're like life back to normal now, whether you like it or not!

 

Ann-Marie Ramsey (00:21:13):

Yeah, exactly. And people go back to their lives understandably, so they're not checking in as much. And then you're kind of adrift in terms of, okay, how do I heal from all of this? Because I, and I'll back up Katy, when I talk about the treatments, I think I need to have people know just how hard they can be on a person mentally, physically, spiritually. And they don't always see that, right? I mean, I was told to stay indoors because my immunity of course was down. And I will say it's a dissembling in a lot of ways of the person themselves. I can speak from my own experience where, you know, first it's my long hair that's cut and then it's gone and then I start experiencing side effects that are difficult to endure in the body.

 

Ann-Marie Ramsey (00:22:18):

You know, pains, aches, rashes. And then, you know, and then there's the physical changes that happen. And so as a person goes on through these things and then there's a consistency with lab checks and being prodded and disrobing. So the modesty eventually goes away. And so you take away these blocks, block by block and the person can, or I, I should say, I keep saying person, but me, I felt raw. I was raw by the end of it. And so it was very difficult. And then I will be honest in saying that my relationships changed and the dynamics did. And in terms of my marriage and you know, I have a son and he was in eighth grade at the time and was struggling to understand it himself. And I would say even a little bit angry, angry that this would happen to his mom.

 

Ann-Marie Ramsey (00:23:31):

He was afraid I might die. My husband, he was very active and I was active up until that point and went straight down to zero at with the chemo and everything. Just very quiet. And I think he was struggling with just losing that person that he had been with and trying to adapt to, wait, how do I help now? What am I supposed to do? So I think those are some of the pieces that don't necessarily get brought up in terms of understanding when a person goes through these things and the treatments, you know? But that being said, you know, with the support from the community, I grew spiritually and that really helped my mental attitude for the better and you know, I just went forward and it's like, okay, I got this right, I'm gonna do it. I got it.

 

Katy Starr (00:24:32):

Yeah.

 

Ann-Marie Ramsey (00:24:33):

And that really helped in getting through each of these phases of the treatments.

 

Katy Starr (00:24:40):

Oh yeah. It's so important to have community support in people to just love on you and help you where you need it and just be there to encourage you and support you. And that's, you know, we talked about this a little bit before, but that's, you know, part of the reason why we're wanting to do this episode is just to kind of bring awareness to breast cancer. I mean, I think at this point, you know, a lot of people are aware of it, but, are they aware of some of the things that you just spoke about, right? Like, these are hard things to talk about. And you know, I know that there are people listening today that are either going through this themselves or they have a mother, they have an aunt, they have a sister, they have somebody in their life that is going through it. And we just wanna be able to show everyone that you know, we support you, we love you, we want you to make it through this and we are gonna do everything that we can to help you out. And so that's why we're having this conversation and I am so happy that you are here to talk about your story cause I know it's not easy, so I really appreciate that.

 

Ann-Marie Ramsey (00:25:53):

Yes, yes. And everything you said, I love that. That's true.

 

Katy Starr (00:25:57):

And so how were you introduced to Riding Beyond and what were your initial thoughts on how this could even be a part of your healing process?

 

Ann-Marie Ramsey (00:26:08):

Well, I tell you, so upon leaving treatment, I was like, okay, I have got the ball in my hands and I'm running with it and I am just gonna pull out the stops on the healing thing. Okay. So I'm gonna maybe try some yoga, meditation, journaling, all these different modalities, you know, self-care, for sure. And I came across Riding Beyond, I had heard that they were having a community fundraiser and I went to it and I listened to Trish talk about the program and I was like, well you know what? I'm just gonna add this to my basket. It certainly couldn't hurt and I love horses and I'm gonna give it a go. So she had one spot left, she had announced. One spot for a participant in her current session. So I was just about through radiation at that point and I rose my hand and I said, I'd like to do it I think, I'm gonna try it.

 

Ann-Marie Ramsey (00:27:20):

And here I had visions of, okay, well you know, maybe we ride horses and you know, all this, you know, fantasy thing going and , even though I could hardly walk up and down the street at this point from energy. So I couldn't even ride a horse if I wanted to. But I did sign up, I got clearance from my doctor and I showed up and I will say I was a little bit skeptical of the program. I was like, okay, is this a kind of a woo woo thing, but why not? We'll try it. And so that's how it got started. And then so when I showed up there, Trish had some wonderful exercises to, that we're not involved with riding, I should say. It was more like just being with the horse yourself and the horse and developing that connection. And so that's where my initiation with Riding Beyond got started.

 

Katy Starr (00:28:22):

And did you have any background? You said that you liked horses, did you have a background with horses? Have you been around them often? Have you ridden them or what was kind of your experience with horses?

 

Ann-Marie Ramsey (00:28:34):

So growing up in Atlanta, I will say we had a pasture in our backyard. It was a suburb of Atlanta. And so before it got built up to this point, but we had a wonderful pasture and we had several horses up there. I didn't ride any of those horses, but I would constantly be up there playing in the field, playing around them, petting them, bringing them apples. And so I just developed this real caring spirit towards these amazingly huge animals. And I was probably about seven at the time, eight. And so that was my start with the horses. And then in college I went to school in North Carolina, and I took a course on horseback riding and that was really fun. So I there I got to learn to ride, to care for the horses, to brush them, to saddle 'em and to take the saddle down. So I did get a little bit of practice with being with the horses.

 

Katy Starr (00:29:41):

That's awesome.

 

Ann-Marie Ramsey (00:29:42):

Yeah, I know, I kind of actually forgot about that until you mentioned it.

 

Katy Starr (00:29:46):

Can you tell us about a moment at Riding Beyond that changed your life?

 

Ann-Marie Ramsey (00:29:54):

Yes, cuz I have one that comes to mind right away. And that was when I showed up for the session and Trish had me and Mystic in the ring and we were kinda looking at each other and I kind of sautered over towards Mystic and then it was explained to me, okay, here's what you're gonna do Ann-Marie. You're gonna put your hand over the horse's heart. And so I was like, okay, well give it a go. So I walked over and I put my hand over Mystic's heart for a like a few seconds and just felt the heart beating. And I will say all of a sudden it almost brings tears to my eyes now because it was such an emotional moment. It was almost like an electricity that went from Mystic’s heart to my heart and literally got it pumping again. And all of a sudden I felt a jolt of electricity and it was there that I was like, oh my goodness, oh my goodness, I feel this connection and I feel my own self coming alive.

 

Ann-Marie Ramsey (00:31:14):

Which had been, I think very numb up to that point, you know? And I think that is probably a survival mechanism to get through the treatments, you know, and drive to get through them. But you kind of lose a part of yourself in that. And it was just a feeling of, oh my goodness, heart, you're still in there. I need to reconnect to myself. Where have you been Ann-Marie? You know, where have you been? You're right here! And so thank you to that experience and that incredibly magic setting and with that horse I was able to realize that probably sooner than I otherwise would have. Yeah. So that was a pivotal moment on how this program could be a healing process for people coming out of all of this and kind, you know, just kind of coming back into society and themselves, their friendships, their relationships mainly themselves to reignite their spirit, so to speak.

 

Katy Starr (00:32:28):

Right. What a powerful moment. Just thinking about it gives me the chills as you tell that story. And it's so incredible. Horses are incredible creatures and I know anybody listening on our podcast, they know this, right? Like horses, they just have this way to connect to your soul that I don't know if others can. And to be able to be such a support for somebody walking through this same experience that you have, the same journey. I just think it's so incredible.

 

Ann-Marie Ramsey (00:33:03):

I will say I think horses, you know, we take them for granted a lot of times I think that, and they're majestic, beautiful, big animals, but they are so intuitive and dial into the energy around them and dial into that person's energy. And it's nice that in a way that it's almost not a person. You don't have to explain necessarily yourself to the horse. You don't have to talk at all. And the horse just kind of gets it, right there and dials in and is like, okay, you need a little help. I got it, I'm here to help you. And you know, I will say that the other exercise that Trish did that was super meaningful in that process was when we were able to get on top of the horse and just lay down on the horse's back and feel the horse holding our weight. You know, here we are holding, I feel like, you know, the people going through cancer right, it almost feels like the weight of the world is on the shoulders and heavy and you think about your life, right? You think about mortality, you think about what's gonna happen, how am I gonna survive? What's going to, you know? And just to let the horse hold that for a while for you, strong, strength. It's really freeing and an incredible feeling. I just can't even describe that.

 

Katy Starr (00:34:42):

Oh Ann-Marie, more chills. Ugh. . It's such just the way that you're talking about that it's just such a beautiful experience that horses have been a part of for you. It's really wonderful to hear that. 

 

Ann-Marie Ramsey (00:34:57):

Yeah, thank you. Yeah, it was amazing. It's an amazing thing. I was glad I took the last spot.

 

Katy Starr (00:35:05):

Right? Good call on that. 

 

Ann-Marie Ramsey (00:35:09):

Yeah, woo hoo! Thank you.

 

Katy Starr (00:35:10):

And obviously participating in the Riding Beyond program yourself has had, clearly, we've heard, has made such a great impact on you, but so much so that you now actually participate as a volunteer. So what compelled you to actually become a volunteer for Riding Beyond?

 

Ann-Marie Ramsey (00:35:29):

Well I think after completing the program and feeling that reconnection to myself, I was like, okay, now I'm on the other side of this thing. I'm moving forward and I feel like I want to give back. I wanna give back to others that are going through this and help this program along cuz I think it's so important. And so it was at that point that I started volunteering, meaning I basically just showed up at events to help, you know, bring awareness to people when they would come by the table, share the publication of materials and what we do with Riding Beyond. And then I ended up joining the board and was on the board for two years in the development committee to help facilitate the activities and funding to help Riding Beyond. And then, so that's been a great experience as well to be on that other side of it and being able to be in a position where I've gone through it, I can talk to people about it and be able to give back. So that's how I got involved with Riding Beyond in terms of the volunteer space.

 

Katy Starr (00:36:50):

That's so incredible. Especially, I mean really just thinking about how you go to something thinking maybe this is something that can help me with what I'm going through. And it makes such an impact on you that you now are wanting to give more of yourself back to it and others that are going through the same walk that you have walked. It's just really neat. It just shows how special this program is and helpful it is for the people that are walking this journey. Something I wanted to ask you about to help anybody that might be going through this experience right now, or maybe somebody that is very close to someone who is, but what is something that you went through when you were battling breast cancer or even after the fact, after you finished treatments and you know, pretty much had like that clear note of health and, and everything, but what is something that you know now but you didn't know back then but wish that you had?

 

Ann-Marie Ramsey (00:37:57):

Oh gosh, there's so much to say on this particular point, but I , I know hindsight's always 2020, right? It's always 2020. And I would say looking back, I would say, you know, going into this process it's easy to follow whatever the doctor recommends or says. I would back up a little bit though to say, go in if you are going through this with an open mind and ask questions. Don't be afraid to ask questions to the doctor because you know, I thought the doctor for sure knew exactly what I needed to do and had the decisions made. But it's almost like a decision tree. You go in, there's one way you can go or you can go the other direction and you have to really examine those options carefully and do what is right for yourself. So following your instincts and we all have it and sometimes it's dormant, but if you really listen in, you know, your inner self will guide you through the process.

 

Ann-Marie Ramsey (00:39:16):

And so I would say that was a big piece of it. You know, you are in charge of your health, your path, and so to make choices based on you know, what you're hearing, seeing, data to take it all into consideration, I think in my case I was whisked along really quickly and to do it over again, I think I would've just sat for just a short time even to consider the options and think about them a little more carefully. Everything is a risk benefit analysis when it comes to that. So I would say that's an important piece.

 

Katy Starr (00:39:59):

Do you have any last thoughts, last words, anything that you would like to leave anyone with about this topic before we wrap this episode up today?

 

Ann-Marie Ramsey (00:40:11):

I would just say just, you know, be as open as you can. I think in terms of cancer and breast cancer, I know we're talking about that today, but most everyone I know now is encountering somebody they know, just as you had mentioned, you know, someone with cancer or breast cancer and, or they themselves are going through it. I would say for those folks out there that know of somebody that might be going through it, it's just helpful to let that person know that you're even thinking about them or send a note. I know a lot of people are uncomfortable with this subject, don't know how to approach it, don't know how to bring it up to the other person and you can just, just let them know you're thinking about them and if you're able to help in a certain way, that would be fabulous. And let that person going through the treatments maybe guide how they can be helped. And it could be driving them to an appointment, it could be taking notes for them while they're sitting in there talking with the doctor. You know, it could be making a meal. You know, it could be anything, simple things. So just doing that is just huge. And like you said, creating a little bit of community for that person is so helpful and so meaningful to helping getting through something like this.

 

Katy Starr (00:41:43):

And you had even mentioned before when, when we were talking that once you get that clear bill of health for, you know, the time being, it kind of seems like you were just thrown back into the world, life as usual, go get 'em and you know, having that support there, you know, not that it needs to be probably as much as it was when you were going through the treatments, but just like you said, like checking in with 'em just to see how they're doing.

 

Ann-Marie Ramsey (00:42:18):

Yeah, yeah. Yep. Just even asking exactly asking, how are you doing? I mean, I'm probably, what, three years out and you know, I'm still within that five year range they say, and you know, one thing that survivors go through is, that's not hardly mentioned is recurrence. It's always kind of hanging over our heads, right? And we have to learn to live with that. And so just, yep. Even just asking, hey, how are you doing? You know, what's going on? You know, are you healing okay? Is great. And so yeah, because after that person's out, they're still dealing with some of those things. Like I, and I'm still being checked, I'm still on medications for a while longer that provide, or cause I should say side effects that can be very difficult. And so, but nobody knows that necessarily, and assumes that I can go back to running the six miles that I could before and I'm still trying, to be honest, to build up stamina, to run a full mile and I'm three years out. So it is definite, yeah, it's things that you normally maybe cannot see at this point physically, but internally that we're still grappling with, so yeah. Yeah.

 

Katy Starr (00:43:44):

It's such, such a good message. Ann-Marie, thank you so much for being on today. I know that our listeners are gonna really appreciate this conversation and I hope everybody felt like maybe they learned a little bit something new or even if it's just to inspire our listeners to think about someone in their life that is going through something like this and, maybe shoot 'em a text right now, just tell 'em, hey, I'm thinking about you, I hope you're doing well. You know, just checking in.

 

Ann-Marie Ramsey (00:44:16):

Yeah, I have to agree hopefully Katy, that they do that. And what I wanna mention, one more thing about Riding Beyond is, you know, for some people if they're unable to help a loved one, if they're in other words, out of state and a loved one has it in another state or something, they wanna help, then being part of organizations such as Riding Beyond, volunteering in some way, shape or form is a great way to honor that person and help others. And you don't even, you know, if there's ways to either help financially or participate as a volunteer and you don't even have to live in the state. You can provide, you know, there's committees for example with Riding Beyond where you can just lend your ideas, thoughts, creativity to developing the program. So I just wanted to give a shout out for that. And there may be other organizations out there, I'm not sure.

 

Katy Starr (00:45:21):

Oh, I'm, yeah, that would be so wonderful. I love that. Ann-Marie, thanks again for being on here with us today.

 

Ann-Marie Ramsey (00:45:28):

Thank you so much Katy. So appreciate it. Thank you.

 

Katy Starr (00:45:34):

Our next guest is the Vice President of development at Living Beyond Breast Cancer and was diagnosed with breast cancer last fall. Monica, we are so excited to have you join us on the podcast today. Thank you so much for being here. 

 

Monica Steigerwald (00:45:51):

Thank you Katy. I'm so glad to be here.

 

Katy Starr (00:45:54):

And so as we talk, we're gonna get into a little bit more about Living Beyond Breast Cancer and what you guys do and everything, but so Standlee though is headquartered in southern Idaho and an interesting little tidbit that I learned about you is, even though you're not from here, you actually have a connection to Idaho and I was hoping you might be able to tell us a little bit more about that.

 

Monica Steigerwald (00:46:18):

Sure. I love Idaho. So my oldest brother is a ranch manager, went to school at University of Idaho and met his wife and she grew up in Idaho, in Dubois a really small town. So right now they split their time between Hayden Lake and Dubois, and we all wear proudly our University of Idaho gear and it's a beautiful state. So I love visiting. 

 

Katy Starr (00:46:51):

I'm so happy to hear that because I am a U of I alum as well, . So that is a little special place in my heart. 

 

Monica Steigerwald (00:46:59):

It's good to hear that. Yeah.

 

Katy Starr (00:47:01):

So that's awesome. I just, with us connecting. And you guys are in Pennsylvania, is that correct?

 

Monica Steigerwald (00:47:08):

That is correct.

 

Katy Starr (00:47:09):

I just thought that was so funny how we had that Idaho connection. So Monica, we were introduced, we started working together in a little bit of a roundabout way, but last year when we did, Standlee did our breast cancer awareness campaign. We had a podcast episode where we talked about our pink hay truck and our truck driver, Stephanie, who drives that. We raised money last year to donate to an organization that supports breast cancer research and support and just any of that kind of stuff that really supports that community. And we came across you guys, which is how we are now talking today. And I was hoping that you might be able to talk to us a little bit more about Living Beyond Breast Cancer. What is the organization's mission and what does it do to support those whose lives have been impacted by breast cancer?

 

Monica Steigerwald (00:48:09):

Yeah, great question. And we are so honored to have been supported and to be supported by Standlee. So Living Beyond Breast Cancer is a national nonprofit whose goal is to be with a person as soon as they are diagnosed and in treatment. And we offer really trusted information by medical advisors all over the country and a community of support. And what separates us from many other nonprofits is we focused on the lived experience. So you may be diagnosed with breast cancer, which is a medical issue obviously, but it could affect your family, it could affect your community, your job, your finances, your emotional health. So putting all the pieces and parts together and helping people figure out the kind of lives they wanna live while they're through treatment and beyond treatment, that's where we fall. And so we're trying to support the whole person. And really honestly, the whole family too. We reach now about 600,000 people in rural areas, urban areas, suburban areas, and we keep growing and we just wanna make sure that no one feels alone and that everyone feels informed about what next steps they wanna take with their healthcare team and their family and their community.

 

Katy Starr (00:49:43):

That's so amazing. I'm so glad that you guys are here to do that. It's such a wonderful mission that you guys have. And Living Beyond Breast Cancer has put together a wonderful campaign for October of 2022 this year. Can you share a little bit about that and how we can get involved?

 

Monica Steigerwald (00:50:02):

Sure. So our theme this year is ‘Together We Can’ for Breast Cancer Awareness Month and can, it stands for the ‘C’ has changed the conversation. So part of when you are diagnosed with breast cancer, part of that is an internal conversation that you can change with yourself from, obviously it is scary, it's a very scary time, but once you become more familiar with a challenge, you can begin to change your perspective on that challenge. And that's what that ‘C’ means. So changing the conversation. ‘Assisting all those impacted by breast cancer’ and ‘Nurturing our community.’ And what would be amazing with Standlee is to, one key part of community for all people impacted by breast cancer, most all people is the role of pets, including horses, but dogs, cats. And it would be just wonderful for your viewers and your community to post pictures using that #togetherwecan and then we can elevate that and share that with our community and all of our social media. Again, because pets are unconditional, their love is unconditional, and they really help in the role of helping people get through a really difficult time.

 

Katy Starr (00:51:31):

And I think many of our listeners would attest to the impact that a lot of animals can have on their lives, but particularly horses, because there is just something about a horse that, I mean, there's a reason why they talk about little girls and I mean, grown women having heart horses and things like that, is they're just such special animals. And I definitely think that they were put here for us to help us through more than what we even realize. And so I just really, really love what you guys are doing and would encourage our listeners if they have a way that they could jump in and join and add their pictures, it would be so special.

 

Monica Steigerwald (00:52:19):

It really would.

 

Katy Starr (00:52:20):

And Monica, can you tell us a little bit about your journey with breast cancer?

 

Monica Steigerwald (00:52:27):

So I'm 55 years old. I am the mother of two young women who are both in their twenties. There is no breast cancer in my family. And last fall, almost a year ago, I went to get my annual mammogram and got the news that I had something suspicious. So I went back for more tests and a biopsy and it was confirmed that I was diagnosed with early stage breast cancer. And despite working with the national organization, I was scared, I was really scared. And part of that was understanding what I was gonna deal with in terms of my surgery and treatment, but also how was I gonna communicate that with my elderly dad, my family, my daughters, my employer. And just back to that point of like all those various ways in which women in particular really, organize so much, even telling my friends, what was I gonna say? So fortunately I got really good news after my surgery. I had, it was caught very early and I could go through radiation and I'm on kind of an anti-estrogen growth hormone. So that's what I'm on now. But I've got a really good prognosis and I just am in contact with my doctors. So yeah, it was quite the journey. It really was. I can now see personally how it can affect so much of your life.

 

Katy Starr (00:54:09):

Absolutely. I'm so glad to hear that, right now, that everything is going well for you and it's just such great news to hear that. Yeah.

 

Monica Steigerwald (00:54:17):

Agreed. Agreed. Absolutely.

 

Katy Starr (00:54:21):

And I mean, you mentioned this, but you obviously, you were working for Living Beyond Breast Cancer before your diagnosis. How has the organization itself impacted you being on the other side of the table Through this experience? 

 

Monica Steigerwald (00:54:38):

Mm-Hmm. So I took advantage of a lot of the resources that I'm encouraging your listeners to also take part of because they're free. One of the things I immediately did was I requested a peer match just to talk to somebody on the phone who went through a diagnosis similar to mine, at my age. And I just wanted to know the questions that she asked her doctors and nurses. So that was a tremendous help. We have free guides that I read at home and because sometimes when you're in the doctor's office, there's so much information flying at you that even because of covid I couldn't bring in a family member. So I had notes in my book writing things down, but I also went really prepared. So that was another important resource that I used. And then I continued, there's free webinars and conferences and I, what I like about that is I can kind of use them on my own time, going onto our website lbbc.org.

 

Monica Steigerwald (00:55:52):

So not when I'm afraid, but when I can really hear the information and grasp it; I can use it. So I guess for lack of better words, like on demand, you know, not, it's not like at this time. Yeah, not at a set time. So I think I tried to make the most out of it, and I really, really am interested and I highly recommend just finding the community and network. If it is your horse, it's fine. Like whatever it is to help lift you up when you are down or just don't know what to do, that community that Living Beyond Breast Cancer has is critical. And I continue to keep turning to that.

 

Katy Starr (00:56:35):

Excellent. Monica, I wanted to ask you about, you had mentioned in some of our previous conversations that there was a grant of some sort that you guys had to support people in rural communities. Can you talk to us a little bit more about that? I would love for our listeners to get some insight on that. 

 

Monica Steigerwald (00:56:56):

Yes, yes. Great question. Thank you for bringing this up. So Living Beyond Breast Cancer offers women in treatment grants so that we pay the bills of people like their rent or housing, utilities, transportation, gas really adds up. It can be frustrating too, sometimes medical institutions, they make you pay for parking, which it's so hard. So we realize that's another added stress to people's lives as they're going through a really stressful time. So on our website, lbbc.org, you can find information about the LBBC Fund, and that's F-U-N-D. Or you can call our helpline, which is 1-888-753-5222. And ask to speak to someone who can help you with LBBC Fund, and you yourself can apply for assistance and then your medical team can provide the backup information. So again, you can do it on your time, when you need it, how you need it, and we wanna be there. So these grants go out to like all 50 states of the, you know, there's just so many people who, you know, have to take time off from work or you know, just the cost of cancer is a lot, it's just a lot of money. So we wanna be there to help.

 

Katy Starr (00:58:34):

That's such a great resource that you guys provide. And hopefully our listeners, if this is something that you're experiencing right now or you know someone who is experiencing it, maybe it's a family member or friend, you know, I would love if you could reach out to Living Beyond Breast Cancer and take advantage of these resources. They're here to support you and be here with you through this experience. And so, you know, I'd encourage you to share this with anybody that you know, that you feel like this could help. And Monica, thank you so much for being here with us today. How can our listeners stay in touch with you and your organization and support or donate to you guys if they would like to? 

 

Monica Steigerwald (00:59:20):

Ah, thank you, thank you. So I'm gonna give multiple ways because of course there's multiple ways to stay in touch. So our website at Living Beyond Breast Cancer is lbbc.org. And through that you can make, you'll find the donate button or you can sign up for our emails, or you can find the Helpline like I mentioned, or the LBBC Fund. So you could go on our website, that's one way. You can call again, the phone number is 1-888-753-5222. So always, that's a good way to stay in touch too. Or you can find us on social media. And our handle is @livingbeyondbc, so we're on Instagram. That's where you'll see a lot of our educational resources and the links to how to sign-up for programs. And you can also get the hyperlink to get information mailed to you. So we are here to help you in the way that you wanna get your information.

 

Katy Starr (01:00:34):

Excellent. There's so many options there. Monica, thank you so much for being on today and talking to us a little bit more about Living Beyond Breast Cancer and just all the tools and resources you guys have available. And of course, being on here to share a little bit about your story, because you know that's also a huge thing to be able to do. And so we really appreciate you.

 

Monica Steigerwald (01:00:58):

Hmm, I appreciate you. Thank you.

 

Katy Starr (01:01:01):

We may not have a cure for breast cancer yet, but let's help with the financial burdens of the people we care so deeply about, giving them one less thing to worry about through this whole process. Let's help them rediscover themselves and heal from the trauma caused from battling breast cancer. And don't forget to get out there and get your annual mammogram done. Remember, for every download we have on this episode and every image shared to social media with the #horsesheal, h-e-a-l from now through October 31st, 2022, we will donate $5 to Riding Beyond to help them serve more people who are fighting the battle against breast cancer. Download this episode on Apple, Spotify, or Google podcast apps and help us make a difference.

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